JVL introduction

Right-wingers in the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn’s enemies within and outside have launched a concerted attack on the leadership over the NEC’s adoption of a new code of conduct on antisemitism. There is much scope for detailed discussion about the content of the code, but the attacks upon it as if it were a licence for rampant Jew-hatred are entirely unfounded. JVL recommends that CLPs, branches, and affiliated trade unions and socialist societies should adopt supportive motions along the following lines.

[posted 21 July 2018; last modified 22 July; clarified 18 Aug]

Model motion

This CLP welcomes the NEC Code of Conduct on Antisemitism as giving clearer and stronger guidance than previous codes and definitions on what antisemitism is and what it is not.

We note that the NEC code

  1. states emphatically: “Labour is an anti-racist party. Antisemitism is racism. It is unacceptable in our Party and in wider society.”
  2. fully incorporates the 38-word International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism and clarifies the controversial aspects of guidance notes attached to it
  3. emphasises the vital distinction between
    i) antisemitism, properly understood as hostility or hatred directed at Jews; and
    ii) legitimate criticism of the state of Israel or the ideology of Zionism
  4. confirms that opinion about Israel, Palestine and Zionism may be judged to be racist where there is evidence of antisemitic intent.
  5. is consistent with the MacPherson recommendations in the Stephen Lawrence inquiry: allegations must be taken seriously, and investigated in accord with due process
  6. commits to protecting freedom of expression, including contentious opinions, as guaranteed by Article 10 of the Human Rights Act 1998. This includes opinions about Israel and its policies, and about political strategies seeking to influence them.

This CLP therefore calls on the NEC to:

  • resist pressure to adopt the full list of examples attached to the IHRA
    definition of antisemitism and stand by its Code of Conduct on Antisemitism;
  • include a broader range of Jewish opinion in any further consultations; and
  • mobilise to fight the alarming rise of racism of all kinds in the UK and abroad.

Supporting argument

The shortcoming of the IHRA document have been the subject of multiple critical comments from Jewish scholars and commentators since it was first adopted by the Conservative Government in December 2016. These are Jews who really care about combating antisemitism, and freedom of speech, and dealing with rising far-right racism of all kinds. The latter two seem to be of no concern to those attacking the Labour leadership.

Since the Code was made public we have seen the Global Jewish Statement, released to media on July 17, in which 40 Jewish organisations in 15 countries oppose the IHRA for its negative impact on a clear understanding of antisemitism and its role in suppressing solidarity with the Palestinian people.

Brian Klug, a leading authority on antisemitism, discusses the Labour NEC code of conduct, comparing it favourably with the IHRA document and explaining why the latter is being held up as a sacred text.

The Institute of Race Relations explains that the MacPherson principle specifically does not give members of an ethnic or religious group the sole right to determine what is or is not racist conduct.

This briefing from Jewish Voice for Labour was sent to all Labour MPs and NEC members.

Antony Lerman, another leading authority on antisemitism, discusses the NEC code and reaction to it.

Portraying British Jews as one monolithic bloc all determined to police what may or may not be said about Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians is dangerous and wrong. Such a portrayal is antisemitic!